What if I am the abusive partner?

It isn’t easy to admit that your behaviour has been abusive to your partner.   Recognizing what you did was wrong is the first step. If you’ve already taken this step, you’re on the right track. Stopping it from happening again is the next. Take responsibility for yourself - it can be healing for your partner, and for you. 

Talk with someone who can help you sort through your thoughts and feelings. There are many reasons why people use violence in relationships. It doesn’t make you a bad person but it is behaviour that has to stop. And it is criminal. Understanding your own thoughts and feeling can help you make changes. Change is possible with help. You don’t have to hurt anyone else.

Adapted from Love is Respect - Have You Been Abusive?

Take the Love is Respect: Am I a Good Partner? quiz or read What is Abuse? and realized that the way you treat your partner is considered abusive? Recognizing that your behaviors are unhealthy and need to change is the first step toward building a healthy relationship, so congratulations on starting your journey. Moving forward, it is crucial that you accept responsibility for your actions and under no circumstances deny or minimize what you have done, or blame your partner for the abuse.

It can be overwhelming to apply the word abusive to yourself, but don’t panic. The first question to ask yourself now is can I stop being abusive? And as long as you want to and are willing to seek professional help, change is possible. Violence is always a choice and it’s one you can choose to never make again. There are many things you can do to change your behavior, starting with understanding what makes a relationship healthy.

Keeping a control log that a therapist can use to hold you accountable is one way to remain aware of abusive behaviors. We know that abuse is all about having power and control over your partner, so when you’re alone and calm you can sit down and make a list of ways you try to control your partner, what you would want to happen in the situations where you have behaved abusively, what excuses you use to justify your actions, what are the effects of your behavior, and most importantly, what you would do differently now that you’re looking at things with a clear head.

While a control log can certainly help you rethink abusive behaviors, professional counseling or therapy is necessary in changing the thought processes that lead to being abusive. We don’t recommend couple’s counseling if there has been any kind of abuse in your relationship. In many areas across Ontario there are programs specifically designed to help people who are abusive change their behaviors. These programs are called Partner Assault Response programs (PAR) and they are funded by the Ontario government. 

Until you can get professional help, if you are in a situation with your partner and find yourself triggered to behave in a verbally or physically abusive way, there are some simple things you can do differently. Think “STOP” over and over, take a few deep breaths (inhaling for a count of five and exhaling for a count of five) and/or designate a person to help you remain calm, sit down, or walk away.

Understand that if your partner is too scared or doesn’t want to be with you while you’re going through this process, they absolutely have the right to end the relationship. While breakups can be painful, this is a great time to focus on yourself  and become someone who is capable of having a happy, healthy relationship. It’s important in a healthy relationship for both partners to have friends of all genders and to make time for their families and hobbies, so if you do those things before starting a new relationship you’re going in the right direction. If you’re considering getting back together with someone you once abused, make sure they can check off everything on this list before you commit. Remember that everyone deserves a healthy relationship based on trust, honesty, respect and equality!

See also: Love is Respect website: 

  • Article: Am I Abusive? the Myth of Mutual Abuse (Love is Respect)
  • Article: Stealthing - when consensual sex becomes rape (Love is Respect)

Further Reading & Resources